The Dominican friar Savonarola was a preacher and a leader in the populist revolution in Florence during the 1490s. His political enemies secured his execution by burning on 23 May 1498, in the Piazza della Signoria. After this he was regarded by some followers as a martyr. This work seem to have been painted somewhat later, about 1500-40.
The reverse of this panel depicts the execution of Savonarola and his two companions.